It’s a sexed-up, nearly naked era, and LaQuan Smith is at the right place at the right time.
On Monday night, the designer took over the Down Town Association in the Financial District, the fifth-oldest private club in New York City, founded in 1859.
And it’s a safe bet the pasty, old men in the lobby portraits never imagined their clubhouse would host a fashion show, much less one opened by Kanye West’s ex Julia Fox in a busty, lusty, revenge dress to end all others.
This was a show for all the “drama-ful b—hes,” as Smith calls his unapologetically sexy, catsuit-wearing fans. They were out in full force, too, dressed to impress and singing along with rapper Saucy Santana, who was sitting front row as models walked to his song “Material Girl.”
It was a night to remember — a collection to remember, too, because it set a new benchmark for Smith in the realm of luxury.
“This season is super directional.…It’s glamour but with refinement, and it took a lot of editing,” the designer laughed, sharing that he worked for the first time with Rihanna stylist Mel Ottenberg on the show.
“I love that this is a gentlemen’s club. People are going to come into this space and understand my world,” Smith said, referring to the vibe that started with pre-show cocktails, and ended with a dance party.
Welcome to the house of LaQuan.
The designer knows his brand and knows how to play the game; he said he reached out to Fox to open his show because she has been supportive from the early days of his business. “She would always come to me for nasty catsuits for a night on the town, and it felt kind of pressy and gaggy to have her. It’s not far-fetched; people would come to LaQuan for a gag moment with that kind of excitement, so I said let’s do it.”
The collection was not gaggy, however. It looked rich in fit and fabrication, with oversize coats over skimpy, mini silhouettes, knits and sportswear to round out the collection.
“I’m blessed — my sales are going well with my retail partners, and I’m predicting they will be even better after this show. I’m hiring people, I’m heading to Paris with Nordstrom, and I have 25 sales appointments there. When I look at my stockists from Miami to Russia, it’s cool to see people embrace this level of sexiness. Fashion is not dead.”
The designer worked hard on outerwear, and it showed, from a red shearling diva maxi coat, to a leather flight jacket with oversize shearling collar, a lavender cable-knit duster with fur trim, to a shrunken patent leather bomber over denim leggings with patent leather teams.
Curve-hugging dresses with cutouts or corset shaping, and micro-minis with contrast folded waistbands, matched to paillette tops, played up sensuality but stopped just short of vulgarity. Tying and draping effects on metallic stretch catsuits, body suits and a Hollywood-ready gold gown had a high level of sophistication and looked expensive.
Glam and ladylike sportswear rounded out the offerings, from an off-shoulder knit dress trimmed in fur to a gold sequin shirt and trousers with ’70s elan, cut with stretch to fit.
On the sound system at the beginning of the show, Smith called out the late, great fashion editor André Leon Talley, who embraced him from his first runway show in 2010. He would have been proud.